U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 8 million

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The U.S. coronavirus case count passed 8 million on Friday amid signs the disease is spreading at rates not seen since late July as hospitalizations begin ticking up again.

The figure, based on a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, marks the latest milestone in the pandemic and comes just three weeks after the U.S. case count passed 7 million. The nation accounts for more than 20 percent of all infections and deaths globally, with Covid-19 claiming over 217,000 lives in the United States.

New daily cases topped 62,000 on Thursday, nearly reaching the 65,000-per-day peak in July. A combination of cold weather pushing more activities indoors, a lifting of public health restrictions and school reopenings are raising concern that hospitals in some regions could be swamped with Covid-19 cases just as flu season takes hold, putting even more strain on health systems.

Meanwhile, the outlook for new treatments was mixed this week. A closely watched trial coordinated by the World Health Organization found that four antiviral drugs, including Gilead’s widely used remdesivir, did not reduce the risk of death or the length of hospital stay due to Covid-19. A clinical trial of one of the antibody treatments touted by President Donald Trump has been put on hold over a potential safety concern. And Pfizer’s chief executive on Friday said his company won’t apply for an emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine candidate before late November, dashing Trump’s longshot hopes of having an approved vaccine before Election Day.

The 8 millionth case also comes as Trump and his allies continue to fight with top infectious disease experts and scientists over the seriousness of the pandemic and response efforts. Trump during a Thursday night town hall on NBC wouldn’t endorse wearing masks, despite the consensus among his health experts that it could help curb the disease.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, at a separate town hall event on Thursday, refused to say whether he’d make a Covid vaccine mandatory, saying such a requirement would be hard to implement and that it’s still unclear what the specifics of an approved vaccine would be.

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